Anger over garage plans

Destruction: The fire at Yarrow Bridge Garage, Bolton Road, in January
Destruction: The fire at Yarrow Bridge Garage, Bolton Road, in January

A family whose business was destroyed by a fire say it’s a ‘kick in the teeth’ having to gain planning permission to rebuild it.

Just over a month has passed since the inferno engulfed Yarrow Bridge Garage on Bolton Road, and Gillian and Graham Darbyshire, who have run the company for 18 years, have to go through a lengthy process to gain planning permission to rebuild their livelihood from scratch.

Mum-of-three Gillian, who worked in the office, said: “It’s ridiculous. The building has been there for 67 years, and we’re having to get permission from Chorley Borough Council to build it again.

“It’s like a kick in the teeth, because we’re having to start from scratch, and it’s all subject to gaining planning permission.”

She added: “We’re hoping to be up and running again in the next three to four months, but that depends on how long this process takes.”

Disaster struck on January 13 when Graham was at work with four employees and a fire started at the garage at around 2.20pm.

The Fire Service has now confirmed it was caused by the ‘accidental ignition of welding equipment by a member of staff’.

Eight fire engines were used at the scene as firefighters battled the blaze and stopped it from spreading to the house next door.

All that remained was a shell of the former garage building, and although nobody was hurt, three customer cars were destroyed and several others damaged. Looking back on the heartbreaking scene, Gillian said: “It still upsets me to think about it, and it doesn’t seem like a whole month has passed since it happened.

“It’s gone really fast because we’ve been so busy trying to get this planning application sorted out. There are a lot of regulations we’ve had to look through, and it’s going to be a really big job to rebuild it all.”

The couple hope to send the plans through to the council sometime this week, and then it’s just a waiting game to see if they get full permission.

“The sooner we re-open, the better, because we’ve lost a lot of money by not having any customers,” Gillian said. “We want to come back better than ever, and I am excited about that prospect. It’ll be more modern than it was before the fire, but I wouldn’t say we were always planning on updating it because there was nothing wrong with it before.”

Graham, who worked on MOTs and selling cars, added: “We’ve had a lot of support and offers from some of our long-term customers, but there’s nothing we can do to help them because we rely on the garage to carry out MOTs.

“We both really miss the job, but we’re just putting all of our efforts into getting the business up and running again.”

Coun Peter Malpas, who deals with planning issues for Chorley Council, said: “We have not yet received a planning application for the site but they do need to comply with the law.

“When we do get an application in, it will be dealt with in the proper way under our planning procedures, and in the mean time if they need any more support and advice they should just get in touch with us.”